Cutting Edge


Dec. 8, 18h:

How Fiction Works - What computers have to tell us about the nature of storytelling

By Andrew Piper (Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar, Director, .txtLAB @ McGill Dept. of Languages, Literatures and Cultures)

This talk will present new research from the burgeoning field of cultural analytics, where the techniques of big data, machine learning and natural language processing are being applied to the study of creative writing. We will learn about a variety of new findings coming out of my lab that address questions such as, Can you predict a prizewinning novel? What makes a bestseller? Does an MFA have an impact on the contemporary novel? And what is the unique nature of fictional writing since the nineteenth century?

After the lecture please join us for a 'Blind Date with a Book'

Treat yourself to an early literary Christmas present from a selection of mystery books. Every book will be wrapped so neither the cover, author or title will be displayed, but key words describing the genre or elements of the story will be written on the wrapping to help narrow down which book you would like to take on a blind date! Books will be available for a donation of $5 and all proceeds will go toward the Cutting Edge Lecture Series. 


In Auditorium. FREE, everyone welcome. No reservation necessary.

Please help us to continue with the series.

Most of the Cutting Edge Lectures in Science are available on iTunes U and on McGill podcasts. Find them in the section entitled "Science and Technology" .


WINTER 2017


Jan. 12, 2017:

What was before the Big Bang, and how might we tell?

By Robert Brandenberger (Dept. of Physics, McGill). Cosmology is a natural meeting ground for fundamental theory (e.g. superstring theory or quantum gravity) and observations. This lecture explores how seeds laid down in the very early universe developed into the large-scale structure we observe today, and how this may teach us about the beginnings of the universe.


Feb. 9, 2017: Canada can be the World’s economic superpower in the non-fossil fuel world and Green Chemistry can get us there

By Robin D. Rogers (Dept. of Chemistry, McGill). The worldwide concern of finding alternatives to non-renewable petroleum-based resources has resulted in increased attention to the recovery of biopolymers and other compounds from natural, renewable reserves including from Canada’s trees, grasses, and marine animals. This presentation will consider how innovation, rather than regulation, is the gateway to a sustainable bio-based economy.


Mar. 9, 2017: Forecasting the future, with toads

By David M. Green (Redpath Museum, McGill)

What can a small, sand-dune dwelling amphibian tell us about the biodiversity crisis and global climate change? Plenty. Through long-term study spanning nearly 30 years, the Fowler’s Toads on the north shore of Lake Erie demonstrate how, and why, a species can become endangered, what happens when a population becomes critically small, how animals may respond to a warming climate and the complexities governing animal body size.


April 13, 2017: Playing well together: The science of temporal coordination among performing musicians

By Caroline Palmer (Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience of Performance, Dept. of Psychology, McGill)

This lecture describes recent research conducted with expert and novice musicians which demonstrates the extreme flexibility with which they adapt to each other, under split-second, demanding conditions. These behaviors represent complex examples of auditory perception, temporal expectations, and memory for long sequences that underlie our ability to synchronize our behavior with those of others. Most humans are capable of making music to some degree: clapping to a song, humming or even imagining a familiar melody. These are common behaviors that do not require musical training. This talk will focus on the one question that most puzzles scientists: how do we predict group behaviors, such as performance by a new ensemble of musicians, from what we know about individual (solo) performance?


FALL 2016


Sept. 15, 18h: Spies and lies - Cold war science, the CIA, and the case against Ewen Cameron.  By Andrea Tone (Canada Research Chair in the Social History of Medicine; Faculty of Medicine, McGill)

Oct. 13, 18h: Chaotic Music and Fractal Art: A Glimpse into the Neurophysiology of Aesthetics.  By Leon Glass (Isadore Rosenfeld Chair in Cardiology and Professor of Physiology, Dept. Physiology, McGill). Watch it on YouTube.

Nov. 10, 18h:  Tiny animals, big stories: the natural history of insects and spiders in Canada’s fragile Arctic. By Chris Buddle (Associate Professor, Dept. of Natural Resource Sciences, Dean of Students, McGill)

Dec. 8, 18h: How Fiction Works - What computers have to tell us about the nature of storytelling. By Andrew Piper (Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar, Director, .txtLAB @ McGill Dept. of Languages, Literatures and Cultures)